Merlino & Gonzalez - January 2021

January 2021




From War to Staten Island The Story of Michele Cedino-Sun and Her Loving Husband, Rick

When we got to know Michele-Cedino Sun and heard the story of what brought her and her husband, Rick, together, we were stunned. You’ll understand why in a moment; for now, let me just say that their lives bring together war, tragedy, and loss, but also hope, love, and the triumph of the American dream. I want to thank her and her husband for allowing us to share this with you all and wish all of you the very best in the New Year.

When I was 17 years old, I moved to Staten Island, and I’ve stayed here ever since — through a first marriage and a divorce, through different jobs, and through a life with my son who is now grown (and played an important role in the story ahead). My husband’s life could not have been more different. The son of a military surgeon in Cambodia, he grew up during the brutal Communist regime there. From a young age, he knew warfare and instability, and the Khmer Rouge murdered his father when he was still a young child. After this tragedy, the militants incarcerated him and his family, and he was separated from the adults — including his own mother — with the other children. This detainment went on and on. My husband would sneak over to the hut where his mother was held. Being noticed would mean torture and death, but a few words with his mother mattered more to that little boy than anything they could threaten. For her part, she’d slip him food and try to encourage him, but he saw that she was weak. His visits only stopped when she died, months into their incarceration. I can’t imagine how awful it was for him.

Tragedies were commonplace in Cambodia at that time, especially in the prison camps. My husband continued to be imprisoned until he was 9 years old, when a turn of fate allowed him and a man he knew to escape. They ran like the wind, splashing through the rice paddies while bullets whizzed overhead — and not only overhead. He was struck twice by gunshots, but knowing what waited for him if he stopped running, my husband pressed on. The man he was with was not so fortunate, falling dead with his hand wrapped around my husband’s wrist. It was a death grip that almost cost them both their lives.

Fate was with him that day and in the days and weeks after as well. My husband made good his escape, recovered from his injuries, and

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